Lilongwe, Malawi Report of what it's like to live there - 01/07/11
Personal Experiences from Lilongwe, Malawi
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
Standard 1 through 6
3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
Working in a development field
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
CIt was really hard to get timely information when we transitioned mid school year.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
D There was little assistance.Communication about placement took a very long time with frquent follow ups.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
The campus is rather run down.The primary school children absolutely love the school.They have a lot of fun.However, academically, the school was inferior to many schools in the region.A new Primary Head arrived at the start of the 2009 school year.Perhaps she has been able to turn the primary school around and increase academic performance and teaching.The school was transitioning to a PYP programme, but there seemed to be no existing standards.When you inquired about expected learning achievements and skills development during the year, most teachers looked blankly.While my children loved the school, I am extremely disappointed in the quality of the school.At the celebration at year-end, students were given small coloured certificates for academic performance.It was uncomfortable for some students to be listed as ''excelled in reading, math, etc'' and another student to be given an award for ''being a caring person'' with no mention of any kind of academic achievement.At the same year-end celebration, the school handed out extremely large glitzy trophies for sports achievements.The school placed, in my opinion, an over-emphasis on sports with an almost non-existent eye paid to academic learning.
2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:
B I sensed a lot of underlying issues between the Malawian children and the ex-pat children.The majority of teachers were from a European heritage with a small handful of teachers-of-colour.
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
C Most of the teachers, when asked would arrange a meeting outside the scheduled parent teacher meetings.However, without access to regular computers, setting up the appointment involved days of sending notes to and from with your children!
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
F When I arrived at my current duty station, I learned that one child has quite a serious learning disability.Despite repeated discussions with the child's teachers throughout the years, I was never alerted that there was a learning disability. At most I was told ''is not the worst in the class.''
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
B The teachers try to offer a variety of after school activities.There is so little, in general, to do in Lilongwe.My children were happy at a young age with the selection.
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
F Words fail to describe how overall disappointed I am in BMIS--putting aside one child's learning challenges.I have another child on the gifted side.There is so much I feel she should know and understand by now that she has not been exposed to.Her current school is fantastic to help her catch up and she learns easily.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
CToo little.The lack of academic rigour is reflected in the lack of allocation of homework.
8. Administration-parent communication:
D The weekly newsletter lacked any substantial information.
9. Teacher-student communication:
B The children really liked all their teachers.
10. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?
Yes Primary math, science, reading and writing.
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
No, there is one specialist teacher who is overwhelmed.
12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
No, a serious learning disability was not identified.
13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Some reasonably priced overnight trips as the children get older.
17. What activities do you feel are missing?
Anything outside sports.
18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
Yes, the children enjoyed what was offered.
19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
No, there is little to no transition.
20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
DI don't think the school even offered this service.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
D there is a computer lab for the children.They learned the basics of computer use. Teachers share 1 computer and printer making it difficult for them to research and print teaching aids and learning materials.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
BAcceptable phys ed programme.The phys ed teachers did not make enough efforts to cultivate a life-long interest in physical activities.Sometimes there was too much emphasis on sports.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
A Standard size classes for an international school.
6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
My children were too young.
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
No, there was seldom any homework--even in upper primary.
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
C The school tries to offer a variety of after school activities for the students, but, it is extremely limited.The activities are offered by the teachers and the scope depends on their skills.In terms of electives offered through the school, the school's resources are limited to offer anything beyond the basics.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
11. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
No, the teachers offer after school activities.The scope depends on the interest and skills of the teachers.The school made no effort to involve dependent spouses to offer extra school activities or offer fee paying (except for a football club) after school activities to increase the scope.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes, there is very little to do in Lilongwe.Going to a friend's house is the primary form of entertainment.
2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
Yes, in general, the children got along well.However, there are some situations of extensive exclusion.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
The children love it and have a lot of fun.
2. Greatest challenge?
Rigourous academics.The school needs to make serious improvements to ensure that students complete the year with essential skill achievement according to their grade.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
There is little choice in Lilongwe. It is either BMIS or ABC, which is an unaccredited Christian school Knowing now what I know now, BMIS would have influenced my decision to work in Malawi.I would not have accepted the assignment.If children are young (Key Stage 1) then I think the school is acceptable.I wish I had left before my children started Key Stage 2.